Mandolin Players Anonymous

        Today I dedicate my post to a new group of FaceBook friends.  They are called ‘Mandolin Players Anonymous.’  If I have ever run into a group of folks I felt a more immediate kinship with I do not recall it.

        You see, mandolin players are the same everywhere you go.  We all know the same tunes, we tell the same jokes, and we play instruments that are eerily similar in appearance.  We are thicker than thieves. 

        For many of us, we didn’t find the mandolin, it found us.  Bill Monroe himself was that way; a small, cross-eyed, self-conscious boy who became a giant.  He picked up the mandolin because his older brothers already claimed the fiddle and the guitar.  Bluegrass history is so fortunate for the quirk that it worked out that way; we’d a never been the same otherwise.

        For me, the mandolin came to me because my band needed one.  I played guitar and banjo, but we couldn’t find a mandolin player, so I took it up.  I fell in love with it.  My wife loved it.  And even though I am old anything that impresses your girl is still a good thing.

        I am primarily a bluegrass mandolinist, and I have been fortunate to study under two great players, Darin Aldridge and Wayne Benson.  They would be the first to tell you the mandolin is not confined to bluegrass, and I have heard them play many different styles.  The thing is great for the blues, country, gospel, classical, Celtic, old time, orchestra, pop, and even even rock ‘n roll.  Because it is tuned in fifths it serves as ultra- logical ongoing music theory lesson.  More important, it is just plain cool.  If I were advising a young man as to how to meet girls, I would say to learn to play the mandolin.  You can’t go wrong with with it. 

        As a Doc I have been very fortunate.  With God’s help I’ve even saved a few lives.  My patients are my friends, and I love ’em almost as much as family.  Many of them are musicians.  But mark my words, my mandolin has brought more friends my way than my stethoscope ever dreamed of.

         When my book comes out, the mandolin players are gonna have an inside track to the truth.  For example, if a man was trying to sell you a Loar and it didn’t have a dovetail neck joint every mandolin player in the world would know right away the man was a fraud.  I expect certain passages in the book are so carefully encoded the mandolin players will have to interpret for their friends and family.    

        Check out the picture for Mandolin Players Anonymous on FaceBook.  Maybe I’m old, a mandolin freak, or just happily married, but I would rather have that Loar of Bill Monroe’s grace my study than an SI swimsuit girl, and I ain’t kidding.

        So, to all my new mandolin pals, y’all watch for my book, ‘The Mandolin Case.’  Mandolins players of the world may have been the underdogs ’till now, but for one time, at least in my book in the year of 2010, our little instrument is gonna go down in the history book as heroic, even to an outside world that knows so precious little about it at this time.  And once it is written down, no one can ever take it away. 

        It’s like my friend Wayne Benson says, “We are bluegrass, and we aren’t going away.”  See you out on the bluegrass road, and y’all keep on picking.

Dr. B

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12 Comments on “Mandolin Players Anonymous”

  1. Carmen Claypool Says:

    true words…mandolin fever…and the doc can’t cure it.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Carmen,

      Well bless your heart kid, so good to see you over here on wordpress!

      You are so right. There ain’t no cure for mandolin fever, and the only temporary fix is to to pick another tune.

      Rock on sister!

      Dr. B

  2. MandoGrin Says:

    I must agree with your comment about the mandolin finding us. I actually purchased one for my dad for his 70th birthday. I seem to remember him mentioning he had played one in his youth, and what else do you give a guy who gave so much of himself to you?

    A quick trip to Celestial Music in Brevard, North Carolina taught me more about mandolins than I had ever learned about anything in that short period of time. I walked away with a beautiful blonde A model (that’s the teardrop shaped mandolin … for those of you who thought I had mistaken a music shop for an escort service).

    It was incumbent on me to be sure the instrument was tuned so Dad could try ‘er out, right out of the box. A tuning session turned into a couple of hours of exploring the sounds.. The only clue I had was that since the strings were upside down to the top four strings on a guitar … I should be able to create some kind of upside chords … it worked … some… I manged to pluck out a reluctant tune “Wabash Cannonball” I think (which I later discovered was in the key of A … a favorite of ours, right Doc?) Bottom line .. I was bitten .

    Within a week or two I purchased my first F model … a nice sounding entry level Kentucky from my forever friends Bobby and Susie Anderson at Blue Ridge Music near Asheville. Three mando’s later…I’m still in love. I have filled in on bass, guitar, and some dobro (as the band has needed) but nothing feels as right as Weber in my hands. I call her “Caroline” but then again why shouldn’t she have a female name … sooo pretty and all those strings attached!

    Thanks for lookin out for us.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Man I love to hear these stories about how folks came to know the mandolin. I hope a lot of the Mandolin Players Anonymous group will drop in and tell us how they got involved and what kind of mandolins they play.

      I’m like you; three mandolins and one woman makes for a good life.

      I have been in Blue Ridge Music, those are good people.

      I am glad the mandolin found me, and now I hope I can find all the mandolin players.

      Dr. B

  3. rekx Says:

    lol…great post Dr. B…I have to agree with you and MandoGrin…I didn’t find the mandolin…it found me.

    I have to say that the F5 mandolin has to be the most aesthetically pleasing string instrument out there. I would even argue that it is the most beautiful of all instruments. I don’t know though, the organ at my church is pretty awesome.

    But the mandolin is just plain cool. Those curves. Wonderful curves everywhere. Sharp points too. I can’t wait for your book.

    • drtombibey Says:


      You know I never really thought about this till today, but I agree about the curves and the beauty aspect. Mandolins to me are like girls were in college; back then I found something I liked about every one of them.

      After I met my Marfar though, I have been a 100% one woman guy. I can still pick a pretty girl out of a line-up, but as an adult any tendency toward a roving eye was confined to those mandolin curves.

      My wife was smart. She let me trade mandos until I was satisfied and settled down on that too. Maybe that is one of the many reasons I stayed married to the same wife all these years; she loved the music as much as I did.

      Your thoughts bring me to a truth I never really thought about. Maybe all that passion for the mandolin kept old Doc out of trouble all these years.

      Like I told MandoGrin, perhaps my Doc advice for the day should be “Every man should have one wife and three mandolins.”

      There are a lot of lady mandolin players out there, they might have an interesting perspective.

      Dr. B

  4. red haired girl Says:

    picked a little as a student (bout 5 years) and fell in love w/the bluer shade of grass… I pay tribute to this art for it changed my life as a singer and open doors to heritage, folk lore, fantasy, and tales from the mountains. I am forever grateful.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. red haired girl,

      Hey thanks for your visit. As Sierra Hull says, “bluegrass isn’t just a boys club anymore” and we are richer for it. Hope you’ll drop in again.

      Dr. B

  5. Smitty Pres. of Neuse River Fan Club Mississippi Says:

    Great post Doc, here you go again reeling in another blog family. I am like the others, just got hooked listening to Doyle Lawson and said I can do that. He was filling in gaps when he was playing and I thought to myself, he doesn’t even have to read music. The bunch I play with tells me just stay in the correct key and if it sounds bad get off it quick and move on, now that is bluegrass. I will check out the facebook stuff, sounds real interesting. I hear my mando calling now!

    • drtombibey Says:


      I’ve played dwon there in Mississippi once and y’all’ve got as good a bluegrass crowd as Harvey County.

      “Can’t you hear me calling….” Another great tune in that line.

      When you’re lost on the fretboard try out some of those Pentatonics; it’s the ulimate fake-out method.

      Dr. B

      • Smitty Neuse River Pres. Says:

        Great idea, maybe we can work that G and D string with a couple of double stops. What do you think?

  6. drtombibey Says:


    Sounds good. If it hadn’t been for double stops and Pentatonics a whole of folks would know I ain’t much of a mandolin player.

    Dr. B

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